The first issue of the year means it's time for us at Arabian Travel News to take the annual gaze into our crystal ball to see what lies ahead for the travel sector this year.
If this month's issue is anything to go by, I'm predicting 2013 is set to be a year of major change for many travel companies here as they embrace new ways of doing business and embark on expansion plans.
Just take a look at our interview with ATS Travel (p.10). Formerly Arabian Air Travel, this company has shed its stuffy, old image and had a tranformation making new investments in technology and opening offices in emerging markets such as China.
Other well-established local firms are also on growth drives. Kanoo Travel has just launched a super high-tech new call centre so it can service its clients 24/7 and Sharjah Airport Travel Agency opened its first branch in Dubai last month, with four more in the pipeline, all positive signs of the economy going in the right direction.
Other trends I think we should watch out for this year is a growth in the number of specialist travel companies, differentiating themselves by providing solid expertise in one area, rather than just selling general travel. We've already seen a few of these — Travel Attaché for example which caters to the very high end sector; but I think there's so much more scope for all sorts of expertise in this market.
Technology of course is changing the way everyone in travel does business. The online travel sector in this region has so far lagged behind other markets but I think 2013 could be the year that online booking storms ahead — especially via smartphones.
The Dubai Government has pledged to overcome any barriers facing the e-commerce sector which shows just how seriously it's being viewed. Could 2013 be the year that a locally-born OTA finally manages to get off the ground here?
Just one more prediction from my side is that 2013 will see TMCs shifting their clients onto corporate credit card programmes if only so they can keep an eye on their travellers at all times.
Given the instability in the region and the volatility of the countries many of your clients travel to it makes sense that companies will want much more info to hand about where their people are at all times. So those are my predictions for 2013 — drop me and email and let me know yours. Happy New Year!
As the voice of the Middle East travel trade, we want to hear your news and views.
Email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org